The traditional gift for a 7-year wedding anniversary is copper, which happens to be what some bullet casings are made of. For our 7-year anniversary, my husband shot me in the right kneecap. I still walk with a limp. I’d just discovered I was six-weeks pregnant with our first child—knowledge I hadn’t yet shared with him. Perhaps it was that new life inside me that empowered my decision to leave, some ancient maternal instinct to protect my unborn child from the monster I’d married.
“I vowed that his hands would never touch a hair on that child’s head—a promise I’d be made to keep on more than one occasion.”
The morning of our anniversary, after he’d left for work, I made my arrangements. By noon, my bags were packed and I was waiting on a taxi to take me to the airport. But he came home early, anniversary flowers in hand, quickly replaced by a .357 revolver. If the taxi driver hadn’t shown up on the doorstep at that exact moment, this would be a different story. The doorbell and gunshot sounded in tandem.
I remember shouting.
I remember pressure and pain.
I remember colorful lights.
I remember pleading for the life of my baby.
The pain that I might lose him—at that moment I knew he would be a boy—was a thousand times worse than the shattered bone in my leg. Worse than all the black eyes and sprained wrists and dislocated shoulders I’d suffered over the years.
I awoke the next day in a post-surgery haze. The surgeons had saved my child. My husband had been arrested. He received eleven years in prison, and I thought my living nightmare was over. I moved across the country to Toledo, where I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy boy. I found a support group for survivors of domestic abuse. I got a degree, a good job, and volunteered at a family shelter. My boy was a straight-A student, and by the age of ten was showing promise as a track athlete.
But the past doesn’t always remain in the past.
One spring afternoon, a letter arrived from the Department of Corrections. Eleven years had passed. My husband, the man who had, during the course of our relationship, spit in my face, thrown me against the wall, hit me, kicked me while I was down, shot me in the leg, and nearly killed my unborn son, was getting out of prison.
I had believed that part of our lives to be forever behind us. Believed that a thing like arriving home one day to find your abusive ex waiting for you was the stuff of movies.
We are thousands of miles away, I thought. He will not be in our lives again. But I was wrong.
After I received the letter notifying me of my husband’s impending release, I started picking my son up after school, rather than allowing him to take the bus home. A few weeks later, we arrived home to find the back door had been kicked in. We heard a crashing sound from the back bedroom.
I looked at my son. Before he was born, I had made a promise that I would not allow that monster to touch one hair on his head. I gave him my phone and told him to run as fast as he could, as far as he could, and call the police.
I followed as quickly as I could manage, but my limp slowed me. I made it outside, but when I heard shouting from within the house, I ducked behind our car in the driveway.
I wasn’t sure if he’d seen me. A few minutes passed. Then I heard heavy footsteps. From beneath the car I saw his boots and the end of a baseball bat. I crawled as quietly as I could around the back bumper to keep the car between us. He stopped. I looked down the street, but didn’t see my son. A few more minutes passed. I could hear his breath and my own heartbeat. The footsteps started again and I prepared to make a run for the neighbor’s house, as futile an effort as it seemed.
Then I heard sirens.
Once again, my husband was arrested, and my son and I were safe. The Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program helped me file for a civil protection order, which gave me an added layer of legal protection, and they provided counseling sessions for me and my son. I decided not to move again, not to run.
“I was determined that, from here on out, the only running would be done by my son at his track meets.”
That night after the police had left and my husband was in custody, my son and I were cleaning up the house and I collapsed to the floor in tears. My son, nearly eleven years old, rushed over and threw his arms around me. He made me a promise: that he’d never let that monster touch a hair on my head, ever again.
*This blog post is based on a true story / success narrative from the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s successes and struggles.